The eagles have landed. Or at least that is what happens each winter at Eagle Pass, below Pensacola Dam at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake which makes it the perfect place for eagle watching at Grand Lake.
[Updated January 2021 – Scroll down to learn about eagles nesting at Eagle Pass!]
From mid-December to March, the lake area becomes a haven for both the American Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle.
In fact, GRDA has even designated the area “Eagle Pass” and installed signage to help promote the area to the public.
To access Eagle Pass, follow Broadway Avenue south out of Langley, Oklahoma to N4475 Rd (the road that runs below Pensacola Dam). Go east on N4475 until you cross the bridge, then turn right (south) onto the dirt road and follow it around to the eagle viewing areas.
Bald eagles will hunt small fish, often snatching them off the surface of the water or even stealing them from other birds.
The best time to watch the birds feeding is early in the morning.
Eagle Nesting Area Below Pensacola Dam
New activity in an established bald eagle nest, located in an area below the Pensacola Dam main spillway, has prompted the Grand River Dam Authority to close access to the area, as it also did in 2020.
The area will be marked by signage, advising the public of the nest and that disturbing it is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which could result in a criminal fine of $100,000.
A portion of the spillway area, popular as an off-roading destination, will also be closed to visitors to help protect the nest.
“This is the same nest that was established last year,” said GRDA Vice President of Corporate Communications Justin Alberty. “The GRDA Ecosystems and Watershed Management Department has been monitoring it and has confirmed it is active again this year.”
“While much of the off-road area is still accessible, we want the public to be aware of the sensitive nest area and the reasons we must close access to that portion.”
“It amounts to approximately 50 acres around the nesting area but will also include some trails that lead towards the nest.”
Guidelines, established by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, recommend closing access around nests to allow for a buffer zone of 330 to 660 feet between the nest and public access, depending on exact locations and topography.
The restricted area below Pensacola Dam is centered approximately three-quarters of a mile south of the main spillway.
The new “nesting area/no trespassing” signage designates the closure in that area.
“We continue to stress that most of the off-road area below the spillways will still be accessible,” said Alberty. “However, we do appreciate the public’s cooperation in obeying the signage and helping to protect this nest area.”
More on Eagles in Oklahoma
It is not surprising to see the American Bald Eagle (Hailaeetus leucocephalus) in the area; after all, it is the only eagle unique to North America.
The American Bald Eagle’s range extends across most of the continent from Northern Canada and Alaska all the way down to northern Mexico.
The eagles, both males and females, are recognizable by their blackish-brown backs and breasts with yellow feet and bills. They also have white heads, necks and tails.
The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), has a much broader range, and can be found not only in North America (and below Pensacola Dam) but also in Europe, North Africa and Asia.
These birds are dark brown and the plumage on their heads and necks is a lighter golden-brown. Typically their feathers go all the way to their toes, while the American Bald Eagle has more leg showing.
Bald eagles will hunt small fish, often snatching them off the surface of the water or even stealing them from other birds. The best time to watch the birds feeding is early in the morning.
GRDA’s Eagle Pass area is just one of many locations where eagle watching is a popular winter past-time.
The birds can also be found below GRDA’s Robert S. Kerr Dam as well as at many other dams and lakes across the state.
But when you are in the Grand Lake area, Eagle Pass is certainly the best place for eagle watching at Grand Lake!